To accommodate its expanding membership, the Big Ten will invite only 15 of its 18 members to the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments starting in 2025, a source briefed on the plans confirmed Friday. The conference, however, will retain a 20-team schedule when Oregon, Washington, USC and UCLA join next year.
Jon Rothstein first reported the news.
The shift in the tournament is an outgrowth of the sheer size of the Big Ten. Including all 18 teams would require adding a sixth day of competition to the postseason slate, something that officials found too unwieldy, the source said.
Under the new format, the league will add a game to the Wednesday slate, with the 10th-place finisher playing the 15th-place finisher. The winner of that game faces the No. 7 seed on Thursday, with the tournament otherwise proceeding in its normal fashion, and the top four seeds earning a double bye until Friday.
This isn’t the first time a major conference has opted not to include all of its members in its tournament. From 2004 to 2008, as its membership grew to 16 teams, the Big East only included its top 12 finishers. But after coaches argued that being left out of the tournament hurt their job security and took away from the essence of college basketball, the conference reconsidered. Beginning in 2009, all 16 teams were invited to Madison Square Garden and the conference began on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. The top four teams received double byes.
Two years later, UConn memorably became the first team to win five games in five nights to capture the Big East Tournament title. The Huskies that year went on to win the national title.
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